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Rhines v. Young

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

July 5, 2016

CHARLES RUSSELL RHINES, Plaintiff,
v.
DARIN YOUNG, Warden, South Dakota State Penitentiary; Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO AMEND THE JUDGMENT AND DENYING MOTION TO STRIKE

          KAREN E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner, Charles Rhines, moves the court to alter or amend its judgment. Respondent, Darin Young, resists the motion. Respondent also moves to strike certain exhibits from the record. Rhines resists the motion. For the following reasons, the court denies the motion to alter or amend the judgment and denies the motion to strike.

         BACKGROUND

         The procedural history of this case is set forth more fully in the court's February 16, 2016 order granting summary judgment in favor of respondent and denying Rhines's federal habeas petition. See Docket 305. The following facts are relevant to the pending motions:

         Rhines is a capital inmate at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder for the death of Donnivan Schaeffer and of third-degree burglary of a Dig'Em Donuts Shop in Rapid City, South Dakota. A jury found that Rhines should be subject to death by lethal injection, and a state circuit court judge imposed the sentence. On February 16, 2016, this court granted respondent's motion for summary judgment and denied Rhines's federal petition for habeas corpus. Docket 305. The court entered judgment in favor of respondent on the same day. Docket 306.

         I. Rhines's Rule 59(e) Motion

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) was adopted to clarify a district court's power to correct its own mistakes within the time period immediately following entry of judgment. Norman v. Ark. Dep't of Educ., 79 F.3d 748, 750 (8th Cir. 1996) (citing White v. N.H. Dep't of Empl. Sec., 455 U.S. 445, 450 (1982)). "Rule 59(e) motions serve the limited function of correcting ‘manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.' " United States v. Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist., 440 F.3d 930, 933 (8th Cir. 2006). "Such motions cannot be used to introduce new evidence, tender new legal theories, or raise arguments which could have been offered or raised prior to entry of judgment." Id. The habeas context is no exception to the prohibition on using a Rule 59(e) motion to raise new arguments that could have and should have been made before the court entered judgment. Bannister v. Armontrout, 4 F.3d 1434, 1440 (8th Cir. 1993). The Rule "is not intended to routinely give litigants a second bite at the apple, but to afford an opportunity for relief in extraordinary circumstances." Dale & Selby Superette & Deli v. United States Dep't of Agric., 838 F.Supp. 1346, 1348 (D. Minn. 1993); see also 11 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure § 2810.1 (3d ed.) ("However, reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy which should be used sparingly"). "A district court has broad discretion in determining whether to grant or deny a motion to alter or amend [a] judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e)[.]" Metro. St. Louis, 440 F.3d at 933.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Conflict of Interest

         Rhines's conflict of interest argument is based on his interpretations of the Supreme Court's Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309 (2012) opinion. On June 5, 2015, Rhines moved to hold his federal habeas proceeding in abeyance.[1] He argued that the stay was necessary so that he could investigate potential ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims premised on the Martinez decision. On August 5, 2015, the court concluded that Martinez did not apply to him and denied Rhines's motion for several reasons. Docket 272. As one reason for denying Rhines's motion, the court found that Rhines received independent counsel between his initial-review collateral proceeding and his federal habeas proceedings.[2] Thus, there was no conflict of interest that interfered with Rhines's federal habeas counsel.

         Then on October 21, 2015, and two days prior to the oral argument hearing on respondent's summary judgment motion, Rhines moved for reconsideration of the court's order denying his request for a stay as well as for permission to amend his federal habeas petition.[3] According to Rhines, the court "fail[ed] to consider the unusual factual scenario that exists in Mr. Rhines' case. Mr. Rhines has not simultaneously had the benefit of effective, independent counsel for the entire time that his case has been pending in either state or federal court." Docket 279 at 1. Rhines argued that the court's interpretation of Martinez and its analysis concerning the independence of his counsel was wrong. The court concluded, among other things, however, that Martinez did not apply and that Rhines was not entitled to relief. Docket 304 at 19-20.

         Here, and like Rhines's first motion for reconsideration, Rhines contends that "this Court has failed to recognize the impact of [Martinez] and Trevino v. Thaler, 133 S.Ct. 1911 (2013)" because several attorneys from the Federal Public Defenders' Office (FPDO) represented Rhines during part of his second state habeas proceeding and in his federal habeas proceeding. Docket 323 at 2; Docket 340 at 1. Rhines contends that this partial overlap creates an impermissible conflict of interest.

         Capital petitioners such as Rhines have a statutory right to counsel, and the court may upon motion appoint substitute counsel if the "interests of justice" so require. Martel v. Clair, 132 S.Ct. 1276, 1286-87 (2012). The FPDO was appointed as co-counsel for Rhines in 2009. Docket 184. Rhines never moved for the FPDO's substitution.[4] Thus, the issue of whether Rhines was entitled to substitute counsel was not raised before this court. While Rhines argued that the partial overlap between the attorneys who represented him during part of his second state habeas proceeding and the conclusion of his federal habeas proceeding created an impermissible conflict of interest, at no time did Rhines move for substitute federal habeas counsel, and the court does not believe an impermissible conflict of interest exists. Docket 272 at 12. The court is satisfied that it did not base its decision on a manifest error of law or fact. And the court has twice analyzed and rejected Rhines's contention that Martinez otherwise applies to him. Because Rule 59(e) is not intended to give litigants "a second bite at the apple, " it, likewise, is not intended to give them a third. See Dale & Selby Superette, 838 F.Supp. at 1348. Thus, Rhines's conflict of interest argument fails.

         B. Juror Bias and Impropriety

         1. Actual and implied bias of jurors

         Rhines contends that two jurors at his trial harbored anti-homosexual biases against him. He argues that those biases infected his sentencing process and caused the denial of his constitutional rights to an impartial jury, to due process, to be free from the arbitrary imposition of the death penalty, and to equal protection of the law.

         Rhines did not raise previously his juror bias claim in any state or federal proceeding.[5] According to Rhines, the reason that this issue was not presented earlier is because none of Rhines's previous attorneys interviewed the jurors from his trial. Some of the former jurors were interviewed recently, and Rhines has secured their signed affidavits. Rhines argues that the affidavits are "newly discovered evidence" under Rule 59(e) and asserts that the court should amend its judgment accordingly in light of this new evidence.

         Rhines's argument fails, however, for several reasons. First, a motion under Rule 59(e) cannot be used to "tender new legal theories, or raise arguments which should have been offered or raised prior to entry of judgment." Metro. St. Louis, 440 F.3d at 933; see also Bannister, 4 F.3d at 1440 ("Bannister first raised the claim in the district court in a Rule 59(e) motion. The district court correctly found that the presentation of the claim in a 59(e) motion was the functional equivalent of a second [habeas] petition, and as such was subject to dismissal as abusive"). Thus, Rhines's juror bias claim should have been raised at the outset of his habeas proceeding. See Docket 72 (directing Rhines "to include every known constitutional error or deprivation entitling [him] to relief"). Second, a principal purpose of Rule 59(e) is to afford courts the opportunity to correct their mistakes in the period immediately following the entry of the judgment. Norman, 79 F.3d at 750. But Rhines does not explain how the court made a mistake regarding an issue that was never before the court. Third, because Rhines did not raise his juror bias claim during any of his state proceedings, this court cannot consider it. Baldwin v. Reese, 541 U.S. 27, 29 (2004) ("Before seeking a federal writ of habeas corpus, a state prisoner . . . must ‘fairly present' his claim in each appropriate state court"); Rucker v. Norris, 563 F.3d 766, 769 (8th Cir. 2009) (agreeing with the district court that an "issue is procedurally barred because it was not ‘fairly present[ed]' to the appropriate state court") (alteration in original). And while Rhines argues that each of his prior attorneys-including his initial-review collateral proceeding attorney-failed to develop his juror bias claim, Rhines cannot avail himself of the rule from Martinez because Rhines's defaulted claim is not a claim for ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Martinez, 132 S.Ct. at 1320.

         As to Rhines's newly discovered evidence argument, the court finds that Rule 59(e) is applicable in this context.[6] The Eighth Circuit applies the same standard for Rule 59(e) motions based on newly discovered evidence as it does for Rule 60(b)(2) motions.[7] Miller v. Baker Implement Co., 439 F.3d 407, 414 (8th Cir. 2006). "To prevail on this motion, [the movant is] required to show- among other things-that the evidence proffered with the motion was discovered after the court's order and that he exercised diligence to obtain the evidence before entry of the order." Anderson v. United States, 762 F.3d 787, 794 (8th Cir. 2014). The evidence must also be admissible. Murdock v. United States, 160 F.2d 358, 362 (8th Cir. 1947).

         Here, and regardless of whether the juror affidavits are admissible, Rhines has had roughly twenty years to develop the evidence he now offers. In fact, Rhines faults each of his attorneys for not developing this evidence sooner. See, e.g., Docket 323 at 2 ("Beginning with trial counsel, counsel at every stage of the prior proceedings have failed to interview the jurors"). But Rhines's allegations undermine the foundation of his motion. For Rhines to prevail, he must show that this evidence could not have been discovered earlier despite having exercised reasonable diligence to obtain it. Rhines, however, asserts that the evidence should have been discovered earlier if his attorneys were diligent. Rhines's contention is the inverse of what Rule 60(b)(2) is designed to address. He makes no showing that "he had been unable to uncover the newly discovered evidence prior to the court's summary judgment ruling." Miller, 439 F.3d at 414. Likewise, the decades-long period of delay while the evidence was obtainable indicates a lack of diligence. Holland v. Jackson, 542 U.S. 649, 653 (2004) (rejecting an argument to present new ...


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